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Published on December 23, 2020

How To Parent An Only Child: 7 Essential Tips

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How To Parent An Only Child: 7 Essential Tips

As a kid, my most far fetched fantasy was to be an only child—not an only child with my real parents but with imaginary parents who put me first in everything, spent all their money on me, and whose lives revolved around me.

I imagined that they would buy me horses, I would live in my own suite in a mansion, and I would have my own maid who would wait on me. Of course, my imaginary mother would be by my side day and night to grant my every wish and dote on me.

This fantasy was obviously far fetched. I grew up in a home with six kids. My parents were loving and wonderful. My fantasy life would have ruined me. I would not have learned life skills such as responsibility, sharing, giving to others, service of others, hard work, or selflessness.

Being an only child may be a dream for some. However, parents must be aware of some issues that are associated with raising a single child. Below are some essential tips for parents.

1. Avoid Overindulging or Spoiling the Child

One of the dangers of having an only child is spoiling them by giving them too much. It is easier to do this when there aren’t siblings in line wanting toys and gifts as well. Having one child makes it easy to overindulge them.

We can curb that tendency by setting limits. Determine how many gifts or a specific dollar amount for each holiday and stick to that limit.

You can also have them earn the things that they want. If they the newest video game, then have them do chores to earn money so they can earn it themselves. This can help delay gratification and teach them the value of earning something they desire.

2. Do Not Treat the Child Like a Fellow Adult in the Household

With only one child in the household, it becomes easy for parents to start treating them as an adult. Around age 8 or 9, many children show maturity and have adult-like behaviors. It becomes easy for parents to embrace this behavior because they understand it. However, the child is still a child, so they need to be treated as one.

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RaisingChildren.net explains that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed until adulthood.[1] Even teenagers will act impulsively because their prefrontal cortex is not yet fully developed.

Parents need to understand that impulsive behaviors happen with children because of this. So, we can’t expect children to be adults because they are not there yet in terms of development. Allow them to be children. They only get to be one once in their lives.

3. Socialize Your Child With Their Peers

A research article by Kitzman and Lockwood (2020) in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that children who grow up without siblings are less able to handle conflict with their peers.[2] This is likely attributed to not having regular conflict resolution activities with siblings.

Therefore, socialization with peers is of utmost importance. But even beyond that, parents should allow their children to resolve their own peer conflicts whenever possible. This will teach them how to get along with their peers and resolve conflicts on their own.

Often, parents want to protect their child and will interfere with peer interactions if they see their child is going to be emotionally hurt. Parents should teach their kids conflict resolution skills by talking about how to react in these situations. Teaching them how to deal with their peer conflicts and to only seek adult intervention when necessary (such as the risk of physical harm) is helpful to the child’s social skill development.

4. Set Realistic Expectations

When adults are only raising one child, they can have all of their hopes and dreams wrapped up in them. Parents should set realistic expectations. Children are individuals, and they are not you. They are their own person and as such, they have their own gifts, talents, and abilities that differ from your own. You should assess them on their own abilities, not yours.

Expecting a child to be a super sports star and bound for the ivy league may not be reasonable. Each of them is special and unique.

If someone has four kids, we may see one who excels at sports, another who excels at academics, another who is artistic, and another who is completely unknown in their talents and gifts because they are still young. With an only child, we can’t expect them to fulfill all the dreams, hopes, and ambitions that could fill an entire family of six.

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Seek to find out what your child may be good at in life. They may have certain activities that they excel in and others that they do not. Encourage them in all that they do, but don’t set expectations that are unreasonable and unattainable.

5. Give Them Chores to Teach Responsibility

Having one child makes it easier to do all the work in the household because it is doing laundry and cleaning up after for only one person.

Parents with three kids are more likely to require their children to chip in on household chores out of necessity. One parent can’t keep up with the messes and work involved with a bigger family.

Children who are the only child in a home must still be required to do chores. It will help them learn about responsibility. They will also learn practical life skills such as how to fold laundry, how to properly wash dishes, and how to vacuum and clean the home.

It can be empowering for them to do chores, especially if they are rewarded for extra chores so they can earn things that they want.

6. Don’t Be Their Constant Entertainment

Kids want attention and time from their parents. It is wonderful for parents to give this to their children, but there should be a balance.

If, for example, a stay at home mom has only one child, she is not expected to constantly entertain the child all day long. Parents need time to get their own work and housework completed, along with time for themselves.

It becomes easy for parents to feel guilty about not playing with their child enough, especially when the child is constantly asking for the parent to play. Parents should set reasonable expectations for their kids when it comes to entertaining them.

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For example, the stay-at-home mom may say to her only child, “I am going to play trains with you for 20 minutes and then you can play for 20 minutes on your own while I do the laundry.”

Finding playgroups or moms with children who are similar ages to your own child is helpful. This can help the child with the playtime that they naturally desire with others. When they don’t have peers or siblings to engage in play with, then they do depend on their parents to be their playmates.

Parents can find friends of their child’s own age to provide them with the engagement and play they need and want.

7. Find Activities to Engage Your Child With Their Peers

There was a window of time—before I had our twins and when our foster daughter was no longer living with us—when it was just our own daughter in our home. That was a great opportunity for me to get out of the house and find places and activities that would engage our daughter with her peers.

She was over a year old by that time, so she was ready to play with other children and have activities that would help with her development.

Library Story Time

One activity that we enjoyed was the library storytime. Most public libraries offer programs for parents and their kids. These storytimes often have stories being read along with additional activities that engage the children and require interaction with all of them together. Such activities we have done during the library storytime include parachute time and crafts.

If you are with your child at storytime and they are getting along with other children there, then take the opportunity to introduce yourself to their parent. You can even ask if they would like to get together at a local playground in the future since they play well together.

MOPS

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) is an international organization. They typically meet at local churches and there are programs for the mothers while the children are cared for together in the nursery. This allows the children to play with their peers while moms can connect with fellow moms. You can find a MOPS group near you by going to the MOPS Website.

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Baby Gym

You can sign your little one up for baby gym classes. There are a variety of businesses that offer programs and classes that are geared specifically for babies, toddlers, and children. Some of these businesses include My Gym, The Little Gym, and Gymboree. These types of locations and the classes they offer provide a great opportunity for children to play with their peers as the classes are typically grouped by age.

Our family has attended classes at three different baby gym locations. My kids loved the activities and meeting with kids their own age. It was also how I met several of my closest friends when our family moved across the country. These ladies had kids the same age as mine, so I invited them to my home for a playdate. I had snacks for the children, coffee for the moms, and the kids had fun playing together in our playroom area.

Don’t miss opportunities to connect with parents who have kids the same age as your own child. You may create some friendships for life!

Other Classes

I have taken my kids to music classes and swimming classes. In both of these instances, they were able to connect with children their own age. Again, it is an opportunity to meet fellow parents, so you can arrange playdates or playground meet-ups with fellow parents who have children the same age.

Some other types of classes and activities that you may find locally—by googling your location and the type of activity—include kid’s yoga, “mommy and me” cooking classes, children’s museum programs, and baby sign language classes.

Final Thoughts

The biggest takeaway for parents raising an only child is understanding that their kid will need socialization with their peers. Since they don’t have any siblings, the parents must get their kids out of the house and find places where they can play with children their own age.

Parents can be intentional about this by seeking out activities and classes that are geared for their child’s age. Then, they can take that opportunity to connect with other parents so that playdates can set up with their new friends in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on August 26, 2021

How to Get Kids to Listen And Respect You

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How to Get Kids to Listen And Respect You

Do your kids listen to you the first time you ask them to do something? If not, then you may have to keep reading. Kids will truly listen when there is mutual respect between you and them. They will listen to you when they know that when you say something, you mean it.

Here are ten tips on how to get your kids to listen and respect you.

1. Show Mutual Respect

You can get kids to listen by demanding authority and ruling with an iron fist, but at what cost? You can yell and scream your kids into submission and obedience, but at what cost? The cost will be your relationship with your child in the long run, as resentments will form in them.

If you don’t show respect for your kids, it is going to be hard to get them to listen to you. They may obey, but if you act as a tyrant who demands that kids do what you say because you are the one in charge, then you are fighting a losing battle. The basis of your relationship must begin with respect. Mutual respect is the foundation for any relationship, including the parent-child relationship.

2. Avoid Yelling

When yelling and dominance are the themes of the relationship, then an undercurrent of resentment will develop in the child. Nobody wants to feel dominated, nor do they want to feel that they are of less value than another person.

Let your child know that you value them through respectful interactions. You are still the parent, but you can parent and get your kids to listen through respectful interaction. When you use demanding, authoritarian parenting methods, you are undermining your relationship with the child and resentments are likely to form.

Avoid yelling to gain respect from your child. If you fall back to yelling, screaming, and making demands, then you are undermining your ability to gain your child’s respect in the long run.

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3. Use the Golden Rule

Respect is founded on the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. If you want your child to respect you, you must also treat them with respect. This means talking to your child in a tone that is kind, genuine, and considerate. Granted, this is not easy when your four-year-old is having a meltdown in aisle 5 of the grocery store and you have many more errands to run, work to do, and no extra time on hand. It takes practice to parent without yelling and heightened emotions.

We are still people and get mad at our kids. However, we have to keep in mind that they are learning and we have far more years of practice at these things. We must keep our cool and maintain authority while parenting.

How do you want to be talked to when you are having a bad day and feel like melting down? That is how you should talk to your child who is having a meltdown and is obviously having a bad day. Kindness, love, and respect, when paired with authority, will create a relationship where your child will listen and respect you. Treat them as you want to be treated.

4. Ensure that Your Words Have Consequences

We know that mutual respect is the first step to getting our kids to listen. This respect will help them be open to what we have to say. If they feel that they matter because you respect them, then they will develop respect for you. This will help when it comes to disciplining your child.

The second step is ensuring that our words have consequences. When it comes to discipline, your words must have weight. If you say you are going to do something, you must do it.

For example, if you ask your child to stop hitting the couch while you are typing an article for Lifehack and they keep hitting it, then let them know that if they don’t stop, they get a five-minute time-out. True story, this just happened. He stopped. Why did he stop? Because he knew I meant what I said. If he didn’t stop, he knew it would mean an immediate time out, not an additional warning and more time to carry on with the behavior that I asked him to stop.

I asked in a calm voice while looking into his eyes, letting him know I was serious. He also knows that I mean what I say because he is now seven years old and has experienced consistent follow-through with punishments for years. I don’t ask the same thing several times. I also don’t make threats. I follow through with reasonable punishments when the instructions and requests are not followed by my child.

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5. Avoid Big Threats

I have seen parents make big threats, thinking that the bigger the threat, the more the child is likely to stop the behavior. This is not reasonable, nor is it a good idea. Big threats that you don’t follow through with make your words meaningless.

For example, if I had told my son that I was going to throw away his toys if he didn’t stop hitting the couch, that would have been unreasonable. Throwing away toys that cost a bit of money to buy as a consequence of a small infraction (hitting the couch while I am typing) is unreasonable. If he kept hitting the couch, what would I do? It would be unrealistic to actually throw away the toys.

Therefore, many parents in this instance keep making the same threat with no actual follow-through. The threats continue because the behavior continues and even escalates (i.e. the couch hitting gets louder and harder) and finally, the parent must throw away the toys and/or resorts to a different punishment to stop the escalation.

The escalation could have been avoided by stating realistic consequences and following through the first time. Time-outs and taking away a toy or a privilege are all reasonable. I often take away my kid’s tablet time or give five-minute time-outs as a consequence. I avoid making big threats that I cannot follow through with in good conscience. It helps me in the long run because when I give reasonable consequences, I can easily follow through with the punishment at that moment and not feel terrible.

Avoid making big threats that you cannot follow through with in good conscience. Instead, provide consequences with warnings and ensure that the punishment is worthy of the behavior. Small infractions should get small consequences. Big infractions require more serious consequences. Don’t make a habit of making big threats of big consequences that you can’t actually enforce.

6. Follow Through

A method of parenting where a parent follows through with their consequences immediately is called the “one ask approach.” In this method, a parent asks their child only once to do something. If they don’t do it, then the parent provides a consequence if they don’t do as asked.

For example, if you ask your child to put their dishes in the sink but they don’t get up and start doing the task, then the parent can let the child know the consequence if they don’t follow through with what was asked. If they don’t put away their dishes, they are going to lose half an hour of their TV time. They don’t get three warnings or even two. One warning is all that is provided. If they don’t follow instructions, then the consequence is dealt out.

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In this example, if the child doesn’t put away their dishes after the warning is provided, then the parent follows through and says “I am sorry, but now you lost half of your TV time for tonight.” The parent must then not allow the child to watch TV and can suggest reading books or playing outside instead. This method will help you parent with consistency.

7. Give Them Your Full Attention

When you are speaking to your child look them in the eye and give them your full attention. This approach is much more fruitful in getting your child to listen than distracted, partial attention.

Case in point: if a parent is playing a game on their phone and yells across the room to have their child go do their homework, the interaction is less meaningful than making a face-to-face request. If the parent sets down their phone and walks over to their child and looks in their child’s eyes and says, “it is time to stop watching tv for now and do your homework, you can watch after your homework is finished,” it is much more likely to be fruitful because full attention is provided.

Giving your child your full attention with eye contact and face-to-face interactions shows them that you care and you are serious about what you are saying. This will go a long way toward getting your child to listen and respond to what you have to say.

8. Show Genuine Care

Showing that you care is immensely meaningful to any child. Your child needs to know that you care about them. Your words, actions, and tone of voice show that you care. If you care, be sure to show it.

For example, if I want my kids to set the table for dinner, yelling at them saying “you know its time for dinner, you should have set the table five minutes ago” will not be as productive as making a caring statement. Such a caring statement could be “you do a great job setting the dinner table. It is so nice to work together, with me making the meal and you setting the table so we can enjoy time together each night. Can you set the table in the next twenty minutes before dinner?”

Showing your child that you care will help build a positive relationship, and your child will be more likely to listen and respect you. Your words and actions in your daily interaction will show that you genuinely care for your child.

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9. Show Them That You Value Them

Giving your child your full attention also shows them that you care and that they are valued. Everyone wants to feel valued. Our children should always feel that we value them.

Some ways that you can give your child attention and show that they are valued include the following:

  • Praise your child.
  • Give physical affections, such as hugs.
  • Show interest in their activities.
  • Get on their level when talking.
  • Make eye contact and smile while interacting.
  • Give positive feedback in your daily interactions.
  • Provide them with support in accomplishing daily activities (i.e. help your child tie their shoes and teach them at the same time as they are learning this task).
  • Build up your child with positive messages.
  • Reassure your child when they are fearful.
  • Support your child when they are upset.
  • Make time to spend with your child one on one daily.
  • Respond to your child every time they talk to you (do not ignore them).
  • Ask your child about their day with meaningful, open-ended questions.

According to the article, Positive Attention and Your Child,[1]

“From birth, children need experiences and relationships that show them they’re valued, capable human beings who bring pleasure to others. Positive attention, reactions and responses from key grown-ups help children build a picture of how valued they are.”

Children must be told and shown that they are valued. What we say and how we act toward our children should be done in a way that makes them consistently feel valued. This will help build a relationship where listening and respect go both ways.

10. Be a Good Role Model

To get your kids to listen and respect you, then you must also be a good role model worthy of respect. Kids watch their parents and caregivers and thus, will imitate their behavior.

Case in point: if you consistently object to figures of authority and do not follow rules or laws, then your child is observing and learning this from you. They will learn that they do not need to listen to or respect authority figures. Be an example that teaches your child to listen and respect others by your own behaviors and modeling.

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The Bottom Line

The bottom line to teaching kids to listen and respect you is to treat them with respect and follow through with consequences. Your words must have weight, and this only happens when you are consistent with your follow-through. Treating your child with love, respect, care, and affection is important to creating a relationship where they want to listen to you and mutually respect you.

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Featured photo credit: Tanaphong Toochinda via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] raisingchildren.net.au: Positive attention and your child

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